Volume 1, Issue 9, 11/08/07
Amused Curiosity and Lame Jokes
I notice my relationship to energy is changing, for the better.
I wonder if I have more of it or if I'm using what I have
Last week I received a message from someone who asked, "Where
can one find physical energy when one absolutely has to have
some, in order to cope with the demands of contemporary life,
from which there is ultimately no escape?....I had hoped you had
discovered some new source of energy for introverts to tap into
other than the necessary down-time."
Still fresh from my 6-day qigong retreat, in a way I felt like I
had discovered a new source of energy (even though I started
learning qigong in the early 90s.) Six days of immersion in
that world of "energy work" was no small thing.
Marti Olsen Laney, in The Introvert Advantage, calls extroverts
"energy spenders" and introverts "energy conservers." Extroverts
get energy easily from people and places and things. Interacting
with the world is like being plugged into a continuous source of
energy extroverts can afford to be spenders.
We energy conservers (introverts) have quite a different ball
game. We get our energy from the inside from our thoughts,
feelings, impressions. We're not plugged into that ongoing
"worldly" energy source in fact lots of stimulation drains us.
And our nervous systems need peace and quiet to do the internal
Does that mean introverts get to pick from two hard options:
over-stimulated or cloistered away having down-time?
I certainly hope not and I don't think so.
It's been several years since I started consciously relating to
myself as an introvert. I think that was a big first step. One
of our challenges is that introvert/extrovert isn't on the
world's radar screen much yet.
I felt a big relief at understanding the new research about the
physiology of introverts and extroverts and I started to
think about myself as an introvert, regularly. As an introvert,
maybe I was invisible to the world, but not to myself!
I began turning into a "conscious introvert." (And it started
happening with my coaching clients.) Even though I hadn't
particularly identified with the negative stereotypes about
introverts, I didn't have much that was positive in my mind
either and I felt out of sync with the world on a regular basis.
That changed. As I got a sense of the introvert profile, it
wasn't long before I felt downright proud of my new identity.
And even if the world still seemed to be marching to a different
beat, I didn't seem as out of step. I stopped feeling wrong
(and confused) and started feeling different (and curious).
I'd always managed to carve out down-time, no doubt a survival
tactic (which chronically cut into my sleep time at both ends).
With my new introvert identity, I gradually stopped thinking
that needing down-time is a weakness. I don't know that I get
any more these days than I used to, but I make no apologies
(and I get more sleep!)
I started to be very curious about how to behave as an
introvert when not in down-time. With my new awareness of the
3 to 1 extrovert/introvert ratio and my developing understanding
of the United States as a big extrovert :-), I got more relief,
and more permission to feel different instead of wrong.
But how to act "different"?! Initially I think it was mainly an
internal process watching myself to see what I could notice
about how this introvert does behave. Being kinder, more
compassionate with myself when I noticed my awkwardness at small
talk or my discomfort in new surroundings (among other things).
And just wondering: if I've stopped unconsciously trying to
fit in, to be an extrovert, then how do I be an introvert?!
That's an ongoing question, but a pleasant one. Instead of the
anxious confusion I lived in as an unconscious introvert, now
I notice a lot of amused curiosity. I make lame jokes with
myself (and sometimes others :-)) about how an introvert would
do this or that. I find myself feeling good-natured and
open-hearted in over-stimulating situations, like crowds, for
instance. A few years ago there was more criticism and whining.
Gradually I feel more and more ease at just being myself
including going at that slower introvert pace. (Last week I
told you I brought my own pillows to the qigong retreat. The
fuller truth is that I also brought a down comforter and a small
carload of other stuff to help me feel comfortable away from
Then there's extroverting, another important part of being a
conscious introvert. More amused curiosity and more lame jokes
here. One thing I notice is that finding my introvert way to do
things is a companion of developing extroverting skills: in any
given moment, it seems, there's the possibility of doing it the
introvert or the extrovert way. Often an interesting choice
For me, I think the biggest shift in this area is that I now
make a clear distinction between having extroverting skills and
living an extrovert lifestyle and I'm no longer trying to
live like an extrovert. (At the moment, the cutting edge for
me with extroverting is to be fluent at "speaking extrovert" -
easy with small talk, shorter sentences, louder voice,
switching subjects quickly
So I'm what I call a conscious introvert. I've reframed
introversion: not only am I very aware of it, I love being an
introvert and consider it a wonderful asset. I manage my energy
respectfully. I'm finding my own introvert ways of being in
the world and I'm working on my extroverting skills.
My relationship to energy has changed. I don't know whether I
have more or it's that I'm using what I have differently.
Whichever it is, I'm having a good time.
As for discovering some new source of energy for introverts
to tap into, as a matter of fact, the qigong retreat has
stimulated my thinking along those lines. Up next, a peek at
the yin and yang of being an introvert (or an extrovert!)
End of food for thought on to practical ideas:
A Practical Idea for Introverts
Think of five things you enjoy about being an introvert. Keep
them in mind for sharing in a conversation when the time is right.
(A contribution to the cause of more visibility for introverts!)
A Practical Idea for Extroverts
Wonder about what it would mean to be a conscious extrovert.